The Campaign Spot

A Quick List of 50 Key Counties to Watch Tonight

The Election Day edition of the Morning Jolt offers a list of 50 counties I’ll be watching tonight — in some cases, counties that have proven to be historical bellwethers of the national vote, and in others, counties that are useful measuring sticks for each candidate’s support. I’ve included the vote in 2008, both percentage and vote totals.


6 p.m. Eastern


Vigo County, Indiana (county seat: Terre Haute (pronounced ‘Terra – Hote’) perfect since 1956, and from 1960 to 2004, Vigo County had been within 3 percent of the national presidential vote every election. In 2008, Vigo County again voted with the winner, but Obama’s percentage of 57.3% was about 4.4% above Obama’s national vote.

Bush won this county with a 6.4 percentage point margin over John Kerry (52.8 percent to 46.4 percent)

Voter registration down from 76,000 to 74,000.

7 p.m. Eastern


Prince William County (MAJOR BELLWETHER)

2004: Bush 53–47     2008: Obama 58-42

Obama 93,386 to McCain 67,589

Population: 402,002    Largest community: Dale City

Henrico County

Obama 56-44

Obama 86,262  to McCain 67,340

Loudoun County

Obama 54-46

Obama 74,607 to McCain 63,328

Winchester (independent city, not part of any county, small but useful)

Obama 52-47

Obama 5,268 to McCain 4,725

7:30 p.m. Eastern


Forsyth (Winston-Salem)

2008: Obama 55-44

90,712 to 73,304

Pitt County (Greenville)

2008: Obama 54-46

39,763 to 33,429

Wake (Raleigh)

2008: Obama 57 to 43

247,914 to 183,291



(Note that anyone on line at a polling place in Ohio at 7:30 will be permitted to cast a ballot.)

Cuyahoga (Cleveland):

2004: Kerry 448,503 vs. Bush 221,600 (+226,903);

2008: Obama 458,422 vs. McCain 199,880 (+258,542) (69-30)

Franklin (Columbus):

2004: Kerry 285,801 vs. Bush 237,253 (+48,548);

2008: Obama 334,709 vs. McCain 218,486 (+116,223) (59-40)

Hamilton (Cincinnati):

2004: Bush 222,616 vs. Kerry 199,679 (+22,937); Bush 52.5 – 47

2008: Obama 225,213 vs. McCain 195,530 (+29,683) Obama 52-47

Lucas (Toledo):

2004 Kerry 132,715 vs. Bush 87,160 (+45,555);

2008: Obama 142,852 vs. McCain 73,706 (+69,146) (65-34)

Wood County, Ohio (Bowling Green):

One miss since 1964 (in 1976).

Obama 32,956 vs. McCain 28,819 (52-46)

Tuscarawas County, Ohio (New Philadelphia):

Has voted for the winning candidate since 1972.

Obama 20,957  vs. McCain 19,940, 50-48

8 p.m. Eastern

FLORIDA (entire state finishes voting at this hour)

Volusia County “In 2008, Mr. Obama carried Volusia by five percentage points. Both sides are girding for a closer battle this year.”

Pinellas County (major bellwether)

2004: Bush 49.6 – 49.5           2008: Obama 54 – 45

Population: 916,542    Largest city: St. Petersburg

Hillsborough County (major bellwether)

2004: Bush 53 – 46     2008: Obama 53 – 46

Population: 1,229,226 Largest city: Tampa

MAINE (Second Congressional District)

Piscataquis County (least populated, but lone McCain county of 2008)

McCain 51-47

4,785 to 4,430

Washington County (carried by Bush in 2004)

Obama 50-49

8,241 to 8,070

Penobscot County (Bangor)

Obama 52-46

42,975 to 37,523



For those watching the Scott Brown-Martha Coakley race, Suffolk identified three bellwhether towns: Gardner, Fitchburg, and Peabody.

Back in January 2010, Scott Brown led all three by a wide margin.



Jefferson County – for McCaskill/Akin race; winner of this county almost always wins statewide.


Claire McCaskill 53, Jim Talent 47



Hillsborough County (key bellwether)

2004: Bush 51 – 48     2008: Obama 51 – 48

Population: 400,721    Largest city: Manchester


Chester County (key bellwether, western suburbs of Philly)

2004: Bush 52 – 47.5  2008: Obama 54 – 45

Population: 498,886    Largest city: West Chester

Bucks County (Philly Suburbs, north)

Obama 54-45

178,345 to 149,860

Delaware County (immediately southwest of Philly city)

Obama 60-38

170,949 to 109,766

Montgomery County (northwest of Philly)

Obama 60-39

249,493 to 163,030

Monroe County (Stroudsburg, fast-growing, north of Philly along NJ border)

Obama 58-41

36,655 to 25,892

Allegheny County (Pittsburgh)

Obama 57-42

368,453 to 269,819

Westmoreland County (Pittsburgh suburbs)

McCain 58-42

96,786 to 69,004

In all of the Philadelphia suburb counties, watch for drop-offs from 2008 because of casual voters being more focused upon Hurricane Sandy cleanup.


Believe it or not, Texas has a bellwether county: Bexar County,  which includes San Antonio, has voted for the winning presidential candidate  since 1972, and only one miss since 1928.


9 p.m. Eastern


Jefferson County (key bellwether)

2004: Bush 52 – 47     2008: Obama 54 – 45

Population: 534,543    Largest city: Lakewood

155,020 to 129,291    

Arapahoe County (key bellwether)

2004: Bush 51 – 48     2008: Obama 56 – 43

Population: 572,003    Largest city: Aurora

128,366 to 100,409

Larimer County

Obama 54-44

84,461 to 68,932

Ouray County (small but useful)

Obama 53-45

1,629 to 1,360

Huerfano County (small but useful)

Obama 55-43

1,989 to 1,582

Alamosa County (small but useful)

Obama 56-42

3,521 to 2,635


MICHIGAN (Central Time Zone counties finish voting)

Macomb County (Detroit suburbs)

Obama 53-46

223,754 to 187,645

Oakland County (Detroit suburbs)

Obama 57-42

372,694 to 276,881



Anoka County (Minneapolis-St. Paul suburbs)

McCain 50-48

91,357 to 86,977



Hidalgo County (county seat: Lordsburg) has voted for the winner in every presidential race since 1928 (except 1968). Keep in mind this county is tiny (just 4,894 according to the 2010 census), and the Romney campaign hasn’t really made a push in this state.

Obama 50.9 percent to 48 percent

990 to 934



Chautauqua County (county seat: Mayville; largest city: Jamestown) — perfect since 1980; two misses (1960 and 1976) since 1952. This county is the state’s southwestern corner.

Obama 49 percent to 49 percent

26,936 to 26,593



Brown County

Obama 54-45

67,241 to 55,827

Kenosha County (Ryan’s home county)

Obama 59-40

45,615 to 31,237

Racine County

Obama 53-46

53,405 to 45,941

Waukesha County

McCain 62-37

145,089  to 85,248


10 p.m. Eastern


Scott County

Obama 57-42

48,675 to 36,239

Woodbury County BattlegroundWatch describes it “in the heart of Iowa’s red west, but unlike Pottawattamie to the south, it’s an outpost of urban Democrats.”

McCain 50-49

20,798 to 20,290

Warren County

Obama 50-49

12,261 to 12,112



Democrats run up almost all their statewide margin in just two counties – of course, they’re the two counties that include the cities of Reno and Las Vegas. To have a shot, Romney has to cut into their margins here (mostly focusing on the suburbs) and run up the score as much as he can in the sparsely populated rural counties everywhere else.

Clark County (Las Vegas)

Obama 58-40

379,204 to 256,401

Washoe County (Reno)

Obama 55-43

99,365 to 76,743


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